Allegheny Health Network is lifting the mask mandate in place at hospitals, outpatient clinics and other “patient-facing” facilities as of Thursday, officials announced.

“Throughout this pandemic, AHN has made every effort to help reduce the spread of covid-19 in our region while also keeping out patients, visitors and staff members as safe as possible,” said Dr. Brian Parker, AHN’s chief quality and learning officer.

Effective immediately, masking in Allegheny Health Network facilities is optional for patients, visitors and staff.

In Westmoreland County, Excela Health System is also moving in a similar direction, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Carol Fox, who said it will follow the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on masking and make adjustments based on community transmission levels.

“We’re planning to move toward staff masking when in contact with patients early next week,” Fox said. “While we would encourage patients to continue to wear masks, particularly if they have any sort of respiratory illness, we will not require it.”

UPMC officials could not be immediately reached about possible changes to their masking policy. Its most recent update on April 10 notes that UPMC is “temporarily limiting access to our facilities to only patients, identified and approved support persons, staff and essential vendors.”

Similar to Excela, UPMC’s visitation policies are based on guidelines from national, state and local health care officials.

Masks will continue to be available at AHN hospitals and outpatient clinics for those who opt for one.

In areas of moderate covid-19 transmission levels — which includes AHN’s facilities in the greater Pittsburgh area — the CDC recommends a high-quality mask for those who are at high risk of getting very sick, or if a patient or visitor has regular household or social contact with someone at high risk of severe illness.

“Now that we have reached more manageable levels of covid-19 cases, and with the impending expiration of the (federal) public health emergency, we’re pleased to be able to lift the mask mandate as a next step toward a return to normal operations,” Parker said.

Based on current national trends, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is planning for the public health emergency, declared under Section 319 of Public Health Service Act, to expire at the end of the day on May 11.

UPMC officials could not be immediately reached about possible changes to their masking policy. Its most recent update on April 10 notes that UPMC is “temporarily limiting access to our facilities to only patients, identified and approved support persons, staff and essential vendors.”

Similar to Excela, UPMC’s visitation policies are based on guidelines from national, state and local health care officials.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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